Is L.A.’s attempt to fight the tee time resale market working?

A new deposit system aimed at combatting the lucrative online resale market for tee times is drawing mixed reactions from Los Angeles city golfers.

The deposit requirement went into effect last month in response to complaints at an L.A. City Golf Advisory Committee meeting in March. Shortly before, a class action lawsuit followed.

For months, these “brokers” have been snatching up the most desirable tee times and listing them on a resale market coordinated through the app, KakaoTalk. Many golfers complained that this made desirable tee times less affordable on L.A.’s 12 city-owned courses.

Since the deposit system was implemented in mid-April, many golfers have told KTLA that tee times are more available. However, some think this fix is only temporary and worry it will cause brokers to simply raise their prices to pass along the cost of the deposit, making the usual $25 tee time cost even higher.

Dave Fink is a golf coach and influencer with thousands of followers on his social media platforms.

“I’m trying my best to keep in mind that this whole thing is about accessibility,” Fink said.

Fink created the #FreeTheTee movement, working closely with L.A. City Golf’s Advisory Committee to find a solution to an issue plaguing golfers across the city for weeks. Fink said his goal at the meetings is to ensure the public has affordable access to golf at the city courses.

The most likely solution would be to overhaul the current vendor’s system, EZLinks Golf LLC. Its parent company, NBC Sports Group runs GolfNow, one of the largest online tee time booking websites. Another would be a random lottery, releasing the canceled tee times.

Additionally, Fink said they discussed changing the player card system. Currently, the system requires golfers to have a player card to book times through the current website. In the past, the cards were used to provide incentives like generating points to go towards a later golf round.

Now, the incentives are no longer in use, enabling brokers to manipulate the system at will.

“We’re looking at other cities where this doesn’t happen,” Fink said.

Fink said, along with changing the system, other details of his meeting with the L.A. City Golf Advisory Committee surrounded a separate investigation into L.A. city’s golf division’s personnel and starters at city courses, who allegedly had access to the system.

Rick Reinschmidt, head of the city’s golf division, did not respond to KTLA’s request for comment on the latest changes to the system.

  • LA City Golf Course
    Wilson & Harding Golf Course in Los Angeles. (Jonathan Williams)
  • LA City Golf Course
    Wilson & Harding Golf Course in Los Angeles. (Jonathan Williams)
  • LA City Golf Course
    Wilson & Harding Golf Course in Los Angeles. (Jonathan Williams)
  • LA City Golf Course
    Wilson & Harding Golf Course in Los Angeles. (Jonathan Williams)

“It’s a complete mystery,” Fink said. “As to how these brokers consistently were getting these tee times.”

Fink mentioned that the city’s golf division didn’t inform the advisory committee about issues with brokers, only with bots. He also stated that the $10 deposit complicates the growing tension between the city and the golfers who support them.

“I’m happy that tee times are opening up,” Fink said. “Sometimes people get sidetracked by anger and blame. It can cloud the real mission, which is, there’s a problem. We just need to fix it. I think that’s more important than assigning blame.”

Wilson and Harding Golf Courses are nestled in the heart of Griffith Park, adding to the charm of two of Los Angeles’ most popular public golf courses – golfers like Richard Willits, a Hollywood resident who used to play almost daily. Willits says now, he only plays at least twice a week at city golf courses.

Willits used to book tee times on the city golf website every day. However, since the website started requiring a $10 deposit, he has stopped using it and now books his tee times through other golf reservation websites.

“I think it’s affecting us for the worst,” he said. “For the brokers they’re trying to stop, it’s just going to cost them an extra $10 now.”

He added that he didn’t feel this was a solution to the problem but acknowledged the city’s efforts in recent days.

Kevin Fitzgerald, assistant director of public affairs for the Southern California Golf Association and chair of the L.A. City Golf Advisory Committee, expressed satisfaction with the increased availability of tee times.

Fitzgerald, who is working with the city’s golf division, hesitated to endorse the $10 deposit as the right solution because there hasn’t been enough time to evaluate it.

However, he remains “cautiously optimistic” because the availability could be due to the course’s annual aerification process, during which machines punch holes in the greens to aid drying after the rainy winter and early spring months.

“No one thinks this is a silver bullet,” he said. “There will be analysis and then a possibility of a different idea for a pilot program.”

“We’ll see what we can do to get to the best available outcome,” he added.

Until then, the city’s Golf Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet on May 20 to discuss their latest findings.

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